News

Marines change camps' names to respect Iraqi culture

30 Mar 2004 | Staff Sgt. Bill Lisbon

In an effort to put an Iraqi face on the Corps' mission here, Marines recently cast off the Army's monikers for their new homes, replacing most of them with indigenous names.

In an order issued March 25, 2004, Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, I Marine Expeditionary Force's commanding general, directed that all base names be changed immediately.

"We're trying to show that we're not here as an occupying force," said Lt. Col. Nick Marano, I MEF's deputy current operations officer at Camp Fallujah. "We respect their culture, traditions and names."

To connect with the local communities, the new camps' names are associated with the local urban or geographical areas that they are near, the order explained.

The order comes on the heels of I MEF officially taking over the Al Anbar province from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division on March 24. Following common military practice, the Army's forward operating bases were given code names, some with historical significance to the paratroopers.

Here, the camp used to be known as Forward Operating Base Ridgway, named after the World War II-era commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway. Camp Fallujah used to be FOB St. Mere, named after the French town of St. Mere Eglise, liberated by the 82nd in World War II.

While not to downplay all the efforts made by the Army in Iraq, the Marine Corps wants to send a clear message to the Iraqi people as well as the insurgents disrupting the peace process that the Marines have landed, said Marano.

Approximately 25,000 Marines and sailors have deployed under the command of I MEF to bring security and stability to the region ripe with anti-coalition violence. As of March 30, seven Marines have been killed in action.

Marine forces are expected to remain in Iraq for the next 14 months.

Not to ignore their own roots, though, Marines will hold on to a portion of their own culture.

"In the spirit of the Marine Corps, these bases will no longer be referred to as FOBs. They will be designated as camps," the order stated.

Additionally, Camp Baharia, east of Fallujah, is specifically named after the Marine Corps.

The Arabic word for the Marine Corps is 'mushaat al-baharia,' which translates into 'walkers of the navy' or naval infantry.

When written in Arabic, it looks almost like the phrase "with freedom."
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